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Review: The Waste Lands by Stephen King

The_waste_landsThis novel makes me want to write a nastygram to Stephen King. That doesn’t mean it’s bad: in fact, I really enjoyed it, and it’s definitely my favorite Dark Tower book so far. But the ending!

Think of the most cliffhangery cliffhanger ever, and you have the end of The Waste Lands. It might as well have stopped mid-sentence. It’s such a cliffhanger that Stephen King added an author’s note at the end apologizing for the ridiculous cut-off. If an author has to include an apology at the end of his novel, something is wrong.

That said, I loved this book. The Gunslinger was great and The Drawing of the Three was okay, though I think it was too much of a departure for the first. The Waste Lands was amazing – and still not what you’d expect to happen after either of the first two novels. The Dark Tower series is nothing like what I’d expected.

I don’t really want to include a summary here because it might spoil the first two if you haven’t read them, and they’re totally worth a read, so I’ll direct you to Goodreads if you’re so inclined. The Dark Tower isn’t like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels: you need to read these in order.

And so I’ll leave you with no real information about this novel except that I really liked it, and you should read it – after you’ve read the other two. The stupid ending almost roped me into moving directly into the next book in the series, but I decided to hold off and save some for later. All things in moderation!

Review: The Names by Don DeLillo

thenames_first_edI finished reading The Names a few days ago, but I’m so unenthusiastic about it that I’ve been putting off writing this post. In a fit of, I don’t know, insanity, I decided it would be a good time to try another DeLillo novel. I think I read something about this one in an article I was reading for my thesis. It involves a cult, and it’s mostly set in Greece. Sounded like a non-formula DeLillo novel to me. I was intrigued.

But, of course, it is a formula DeLillo novel. It’s just that they guy who’s running away isn’t the protagonist. You might argue that Bill Gray isn’t really the protagonist of Mao II, but that novel isn’t narrated in the first person by an entirely different character. DeLillo went all Nick Carraway on me.

So what, you ask, is this guy running away from? Language. The Names is all about language. And it’s not subtle at all just like TV isn’t in Americana, music isn’t in Great Jones Street, and literature/the publishing industry isn’t in Mao II. Once again, DeLillo beats you over the head with it.

I got so annoyed with this book that I skimmed most of the last third of the novel. I just wanted to find out what was going on with the cult. I didn’t care about the talking heads part. And that’s most of it.

Here’s enough of the plot. There’s a cult moving around eastern Europe that murders people based on similarities between their names and their locations. There’s no real explanation for it – they just do it. And the main characters talk about it.

The more I think about this book, the more I dislike it. I’m tired of DeLillo’s formula, and The Names certainly isn’t one of his best novels, anyway. This is the second one I’ve disliked from the beginning: the other was The Body Artist. I’ve been planning on giving that one a second chance because I didn’t see how it could be that bad (especially since I like Great Jones Street, widely considered to be his worst novel.

That’s all I have to say about The Names. I was disappointed. I’ll get back on the thesis soon, and I’m hoping that being so annoyed won’t make me lose interest again.

Review: Sabriel

200px-Sabriel_Book_CoverI’d never thought too much of Goodreads’ recommendations, but I think Sabriel changed my mind. Goodreads categorizes recommendations based on shelves, and it thought I’d like Sabriel based on my Favorites shelf. (I’ve been using Goodreads for years to catalog what I’ve read, and I’m pretty picky with the Favorite’s shelf.) After The Castle of Crossed Destinies, I was kind of lost, and I felt like reading a book about the Desert, so I started Sunset over Chocolate Mountains, which I’d tried to read at least ten years ago but couldn’t finish. This time, I went to Boston in the middle of it, was distracted by Frank O’Hara for a bit, and kind of lost interest. Which is how I ended up browsing through Goodreads’ recommendations.

ANYWAY. Sabriel is a fantasy novel geared toward teenagers. I know. But it’s really not bad! There are no vampires involved: Sabriel is eighteen and has just graduated from a girls’ school in a place called Ancelstierre. She is from what’s called the Old Kingdom, where magic is the norm. Sabriel’s father is the Abhorsen, a necromancer who sends dead things to actual death (they’re kind of like zombies! but not). He disappears, and Sabriel goes on a quest to find him. Okay, I totally did not do this book justice here.

This isn’t a book like The Hunger Games where I say, “Why are teenagers allowed to read this?” It’s pretty kosher, except for a bit of an unnecessary sex scene as heard through a bathroom wall. I really don’t know why that’s in there. Or at least in so much detail.

I really liked this novel. The only problem I had with it is that the characters are a bit flat. There are three main characters: Sabriel, Touchstone (Sabriel finds him trapped in wood on a ship), and Mogget (a spirit trapped in the form of a cat). Sabriel is okay, and so, I guess, is Mogget, but Touchstone is too important a character to be flat, and I was annoyed for a good chunk of the novel because of it.

Otherwise, Sabriel is a good adventure story for when you’re a bit jaded, and you want a fast-paced, easy read. And it’s not too teenager-y since Sabriel doesn’t really have time to be angsty. And it’s the first novel in a series of three. A fourth is apparently coming out sometime next year. I’m not sure if I’m going to read the rest of them, but I have a feeling that I will.

Review (kind of): The Fellowship of the Ring

fellowship-of-the-ringSo this isn't my first time reading The Fellowship of the Ring, though, surprisingly, it's only my second time finishing it. I tried the first time when I was eleven or twelve. I remember it clearly: My mom and I were in the Waldenbooks in Pierre Bossier Mall (do they still make Waldenbooks?), and I pulled it off the shelf. I'm not sure whether I knew what I was looking for, or not, or even whether I had heard of Tolkien, though I don't see why I'd choose that one if I hadn't. I was about the right age to discover those novels, but without the internet or friends who read for fun, it's kind of doubtful. Anyway, I think I might have gotten a tenth of the way through it (I wasn't particularly fond of or good at finishing long books), and I quit. I don't think Frodo even made it out of the Shire.

Five, or so, years ago, I decided to read The Lord of the Rings as a challenge. I'm pretty sure that if you count all three novels as one (which I do), it's still the longest book I've ever read. It took me about three months, and I was so proud of myself for finishing it. I liked it even more than I thought I would.

It seems strange to write a summary of The Fellowship of the Ring because I think that everyone I know has read it or has at least seen the movie, but here goes. It begins fifty or sixty years after the events of The Hobbit. Frodo, a hobbit and Bilbo Baggins's nephew, inherits Bilbo's magic ring that makes its wearer invisible. Turns out, though, that the ring has a more sinister purpose and is trying to make it back to its evil master, Sauron, who wants to rule all of Middle Earth. So Frodo and his friends must take the ring to the one place it can be destroyed, the fires of Mount Doom, which happens to be in Sauron's domain. The Fellowship of the Ring chronicles the first part of that journey.

If you haven't read The Lord of the Rings, get yourself a copy. The novels are so much better and more detailed than the movies. There's a great part in The Fellowship of the Ring that's totally left out of the movie, and it's definitely worth a read. This novel is great for just about any age: it's not a kids' novel, but any kid around 12 or older will probably love it. I'm pretty sure I didn't finish it more because of my short book attention span rather than boredom, and I really wish I would have stuck with it for no other reason than having read the books before seeing the movies. So, even if you've read it before, pick up a copy and get to readin'!

The Metamorphosis

My first encounter with this lovely tale was at the tender age of twelve. It was a passage on a standardized test, and at that moment I was more focused on finishing the test before time was called. So naturally, I didn't appreciate it the first go around. The next time I read this book was in the eigth grade. I was in a word stunned. I wasn't stunned by the story itself, but with the concept that a man could be turned into a giant cockroach overnight without any explanation whatsoever. Another thing that irked me at the time was the fact that he isn't disturbed in the slightest that he has been morphed into a giant roach ( GROSSSSS!). Needless to say, I didn't like reading it that go around. On my most recent gleaming of the Metamorphosis, I loved it.

 In order to have any understanding of the Metamorphosis whatsoever, you need to understand the concept of absurdism. Absurdism is a big fancy word for life makes no sense and has no meaning whatsoever. The idea that a character can be turned into a giant roach and have no one question it is a big nod to absurdism. Anyway, The Metamorphosis is about a man's transformation into a cockroach and his family's reactions to that transformation. They won't be the type of reactions you'd expect. All in all, once you get over the ick factor, the Metamorphosis is a good read.


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